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These Are the Happiest (and Unhappiest) Cities in America

People say there's more to life than just being happy, but that sounds kind of dumb. So maybe give happiness a shot? Get a pet, find a partner, make a bunch of money, or maybe consider whether the place you live is leaching your capacity for joy?

The Plano Balloon Festival in Plano, Texas. | Shutterstock
The Plano Balloon Festival in Plano, Texas. | Shutterstock

People say there's more to life than just being happy, but that sounds kind of dumb. So maybe give happiness a shot? Get a pet, find a partner, make a bunch of money, or maybe consider whether the place you live is leaching your fundamental capacity for joy?

With that last one in mind, peruse this list of the happiest and unhappiest cities in the United States, courtesy of WalletHub. WalletHub looked at over 180 of the largest US cities to put this study together, and compared them based on 31 reliable indicators of happiness to rank them. We've broken that down into the top 10 and bottom 10 below, but make sure to check out the full study to find your own city. We're not saying if you move to one of these places you'll immediately experience a profound and steady bliss lasting to the end of your days, but it can't hurt your chances. 

WalletHub has also included this handy map so you can get an overview of the entire country. To use it, hover over the dots to see each city's ranking. The darker the dot, the happier the city.

Source: WalletHub

Here are the top 10

10. San Francisco, CA
9. Scottsdale, AZ
8. San Jose, CA
7. Grand Prairie, TX
6. Fargo, ND
5. Huntington Beach, CA
4. Fremont, CA
3. Madison, WI
2. Irvine, CA
1. Plano, TX

Here are the bottom 10

10. Mobile, AL
9. Newark, NJ
8. Huntington, WV
7. Little Rock, AR
6. Gulfport, MS
5. Cleveland, OH
4. Birmingham, AL
3. Charleston, WV
2. Toledo, OH
1. Detroit, MI

To assemble this study, WalletHub compared 182 of the largest cities -- the 150 most populated, and at least two of the most populous in each state -- around three primary dimensions: 1) Emotional & Physical Well-Being, 2) Income & Employment and 3) Community & Environment. Those were broken down into 31 metrics, like depression rate, income-growth rate, and average leisure time spent per day. Those metrics were graded on a 100-point scale and combined into an overall score that was used to rank the cities. 

It may come as some surprise that the top city is Plano, Texas, which, to say the least, doesn't come up very much. Maybe because it doesn't feel the need to bring attention to itself, as it's already so happy? The North Texas city near Dallas came in at number four for lowest separation & divorce rate and in the top 10 for all three of the overarching categories. Right behind Plano is Irvine, California, which has the obvious benefit of being located in California, plus being number five in overall Community & Environment, second lowest for separation and divorce rate, the second highest for sports-participation rate. Bros, it seems, really do have more fun. 

In dead last is Detroit, which came in 181st (second to last) for Emotional & Physical Well-Being, Income & Employment, and Community & Environment, and also had the highest separation & divorce rate of any of the cities. That's not to say it's impossible to be happy in Detroit, or that the people there are miserable, but you're probably not doing yourself any favors in that department by moving there. 

Also, we know money can't buy happiness, but we're also going to suggest checking out this list of cities with high paying jobs.


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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.